#writephoto: Dark pool

A short story for Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt. You’ll have to go to Sue’s blog to see the prompt as WP refuses to upload it here.

The river flows as it always did, in turbulent pools where the bank is broken by the deep stone walls. Impregnable, they always said, with the cliff behind and the river before, and my father laughed at the notion of siege.
“We have stores enough for two years within and the wells never run dry.”
When he said I was to marry the neighbouring seigneur to make our joint lands the wealthiest in the county, the fort became a prison. You vowed you would come for me, as I vowed I would be here when you did. No walls would keep me in if your arms waited on the other side.
So I was here where the river rolls, with its whirlpool of autumn leaves carried round and round in the current, trapped between buttress and bank, when you guided your boat with muffled oars silently beneath walls. I was here when you raised your sweet face and opened your arms.
You were there, below, when I climbed the parapet, a cord about my waist and tested the strength of the knot about the merlon. And I saw your face, smiling, one last brief moment before my father’s archers leapt from the tower and your smile turned to a grimace of pain and despair.
Only I am here now, watching the river. My father believes women have no courage and doesn’t even think to put a watch on me. The FitzHugh is coming tomorrow to finger the goods, the prelude to my sentence, but by then, I will be where you fell, among the autumn leaves carried round and round in the cold, clear river water beneath this wall.

The world afterwards

Because it’s Sue’s prompt, and because I like the image.

nick-birds-se-ilkley-2015-uffington-avebury-cropton-helmsley-088

There’s a lonely hill above a lonely valley, and no one treads the high paths anymore. Once there were forests they say, latterly herds of brown cattle and flocks of sheep, but the soil thinned until the grass grew brown as the cattle.
No one treads the high paths anymore, and in the valley the sheep have gone, the cattle long since bones beneath the bracken.
Only I go there at times, when the air is not too sharp and the glare in the sky not too fierce. I stand on the hill and try to remember what green looked like, the smell of gorse flowers, and the song of the skylark above the heath.
I strain through my mask to hear that music of a dead time, but the only sound is the rattle of the wind in the heather’s dry bells.

#Writephoto: Last journey

For Sue Vincent’s writing challenge.

Screenshot 2020-08-21 at 15.23.00

Odin’s moon rocked drunkenly over the pines; Asgard slept drunkenly or stumbled tipsily off to bed. Freyja turned her back on Odin’s hall and his moon and watched the stars. Soon she would leave, taking only her cats and she would search all the paths beneath the sky for Odr. If he was not to be found, wandering the tracks that led among lakes and mountains, along seashores and wide grassy river plains, she would search among the stars.

The end was coming. She felt it in the air, angry and greasy, belligerent as a hall-full of gods, and it would be bloody. She would not wait for it to arrive, but would sweep Odr into her chariot and go to meet it if necessary. If she had Odr by her side, she would not mind the end.

A cat nudged her hand with his head, and she scratched his ears. “Soon, we will leave this sad place and go hunting together.”

Fressi made a rasping noise in his throat, and Freyja smiled. “Bats perhaps and not mice, I promise, but certainly not owls.”

A second cat stalked over the faintly starlit grass, sleek, red and ring-tailed. They were the only friends she had in the whole of Asgard now that Idunn had gone, following the eyes that shone in the night sky, now green, now blue. Freyja hoped she would find what she looked for. A sharp noise broke the night silence and Fressi hissed. More fighting. Not that they ever hurt one another. Posturing, that was all they were good for.

Fress spoke then, quickly, urgently and Freyja listened. There was no sound apart from the bickering outside Odin’s hall, but the pale ghosts of barn owls circled overhead before taking the path to Bifröst. Fressi howled and Freyja made her decision.

“It will be tonight then,” she said. “The chariot is ready. It has been for months now.”

The two cats bounded off to take up their places between the shafts, and Freyja raised her eyes defiantly to the rocking moon. “You can keep your rotting world, Odin, your magic apples and eternal youth that you have no notion how to use. Your fate is on his way, bringing with him the bloodletting that will unleash the end. Enjoy your junketing while it lasts.”

Somewhere, among the stars that hung low on the northern horizon, the green eyes of Idunn’s Jötunn winked.

#writephoto microfiction: The tides of the night

This is for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. It started off as a poem and I rewrote it as a piece of prose, a sort of prose poem. I might try again and write something more story-like.

dark-dawn

Purple the sky that quenches the sun, violet the cloudy horizon, and midnight is blue as a deep, dark well. I watch the fire that dies in the west, the night that falls harder than winter, and I long for a star to follow, for someone to guide my steps onward. But the valley echoes bronze bell-hollow, and the sedge bends beneath unseen steps. In the well of the world, the moon swims, a fish, round as a cheese, pale as death waiting like me, for the rising tide.

Purple the sky that rains cold tears, and I hide my face from its sorrow. But still I see the violet light of tomorrow’s illusions flicker and skim the dark well, a mirror, reflecting your face. Moon rises, flooding the world, and the great pale fish flicks its tail at the stars. On the mountain, I see through the snow—or is it the silver moonlight?—wolf tracks leading north. Something beckons, the wild red savagery of life, perhaps, and I feel the threads of my heart breaking. I will follow the wolf and the stars that shine behind the cloud that masks the sky, though you call and haul at the broken net.

Beyond the midnight sea is morning. Beyond the mocking mirror is a sky aflutter with white wings, rippling with the dance of the moonfish. You snapped my heart strings when you plucked them with the wrong music, and the purple and the violet, the colours of death, I shed like the rose sheds the dew on a windy autumn morning.